“The first ruling of its kind.” Sending obscene photos on WhatsApp leads a man to prison

The British judiciary convicted a 39-year-old man on charges of sharing obscene photos with a minor via the WhatsApp application, in a ruling that is the first of its kind in the country, according to what was reported by the newspaper “Washington Post“.

On Tuesday, the Royal Prosecution Service announced a 66-week prison sentence against Nicholas Hawkes, after he sent pictures of his penis to a 15-year-old girl and an adult woman via WhatsApp on February 9.

The woman took screenshots of the image on WhatsApp and reported it to local police in Essex, near London, on the same day.

The Public Prosecution said that Hawkes, who was already convicted of sexual crimes, was prosecuted within days of filing the complaint. On February 12, he pleaded guilty to two charges, one of which related to sending a photo or video to cause alarm, distress or humiliation.

Sending unsolicited explicit images has become a criminal offense in England and Wales since January 31, with the passage of the Online Safety Act.

Hannah von Dudelsen, a spokeswoman for Crown Prosecution Service in the East of England, said: “Sending these types of images is a serious crime that leaves a lasting impact on victims, but is often dismissed as reckless or harmless pranks.”

She continued: “Just as those who commit inappropriate behavior in real life can expect to face consequences, perpetrators who misbehave online must know that hiding in the virtual public does not protect them from legal prosecution.”

The accused was already registered on the sex offenders’ register until November 2033, after being convicted last year of sexual exploitation of a child under the age of 16.

He was sentenced to 52 weeks in prison for electronic misinformation and an additional 14 weeks for violating a previous court order, the Public Prosecution said.

Hawkes was also given a restraining order preventing him from contacting or approaching the woman and girl for 10 years, and a sexual harm prevention order, which could prevent him from holding certain jobs or visiting certain public places for 15 years.

Under the recently passed Online Safety Law, which aims to combat online sexual harassment, cybercrimes on dating apps and other platforms such as WhatsApp can lead to up to two years in prison.

Some US states, including California and Texas, have also passed laws to encourage those affected by online sexual misconduct to file lawsuits or file civil complaints against the perpetrators.

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